Memories from the Goderich Waterfront: The Canada Company Steamboat: Minnisetung

Following much advertising of regular service, the directors of the Canada Company decided to build a steamer to carry settlers into the western half of the Huron Tract and north and south beyond. In 1832, the 175–ton steamer, Minnisetung, (also spelled Menesetunk) was built in Goderich. Since the Company had neglected to maintain the harbour, a sand bar formed across the basin stranding the unfinished ship on shore. By summer 1835, all that remained of the vessel was her beached and rotting hull.

Captain. Robert Dunlop; Canada Co. Company's Advertising Handbill

Captain. Robert Dunlop; Canada Co. Company’s Advertising Handbill

Undismayed, the Company laid the keel of the second Minnisetung in November 1833. Her carpenter foreman is believed to have been the future American shipping magnate “Commodore” Cornelius Kingsland Garrison who suddenly left the Canada Company’s employ leaving his cash account in a rather irregular condition. In 1839, Garrison became a shipbuilder in St. Louis, Missouri, then went on to California in the 1848 Gold Rush, founded the Pacific Mail Steamship Company and became San Francisco’s fifth mayor. He died in New York City in 1885, at age 76, with an estate of $15–20 million.

The second Minnisetung was a 250–ton vessel with a 45–horsepower steam engine. The Toronto Courier called her an “elegant steam vessel.” When she was launched in July 1834, the Lizars sisters recalled in In the Days of the Canada Company (1896), that “her Christening was quite a fête,” with the elite of the Huron Tract travelling miles to witness “pretty Helen” break a wine bottle over her bow.

Her first commander was the famed Royal Naval hero, Captain Robert Dunlop (William “Tiger’s” brother). The Minnisetung made her first 150–mile round trip from Sandwich (Windsor) to Goderich in just 14 hours. The Minnisetung was Captain Dunlop’s last sea command as he was elected Huron’s first Member of Parliament in 1835. The following year, another Royal Naval officer, Captain William Wright, took the Minnisetung’s helm. However, his command was short lived as, on May 28, 1839, she collided with an American steamer and sank near Malden, thus ending the Canada Company’s marine commercial ventures.